A collision of emotions.


While pretty much every day we have ever been in Swaziland is impacting, there are days that stand out as defining moments.  Today felt like one of those days.  The best way I think we could summarize our day is a collision of emotions.

On one side, we had an incredible day full of joy, laughter, dance, singing, and countless smiles.  We played hard today.  At one point I walked the care point grounds and was amazed to see about 13 different activities happening at once. jon-day-2-34 The place was alive!  Music was blaring & kids were having a dance party with our team….well the kids were dancing….not sure what to call what our team was doing.  Soccer games were happening.  The building was full of crafts & painting.  The lunch pots were smoking.  The playground was in full use.  The sights and sounds were beautiful!  One fun moment was when Dina introduced her name to someone and they responded, “oh, like the last meal of the day!”

Not only did we play hard, but we had so many amazing exchanges of new relationships & reunited ones.  A few of our team members had the opportunity to meet their special friends for the first time.  A few of our team members had children attached to them almost permanently.  What an experience to be so accepted by these children and to be able to give them such needed love and care.  The significance of this I will need to leave to the images to communicate because it really can’t be captured into words.

jon-day-2-64The experience of joy & celebration at Bhobokazi today seems to have collided with another reality that hit home pretty deeply for us.  While so much progress & good & care is happening, we were again hit by the honest reality that life is brutally tough in Swaziland.  It seems so unfair that one group of people has had to endure such difficulty and sometimes it just seems so vast and endless that we can’t help but feel overwhelmed.  We visited three different homesteads today that made this reality so apparent.  A 14 year old boy that is raising 6 younger siblings alone on his homestead because he has been abandoned by his parents.  Stop for a minute to think about this.  This reality brought us to tears tonight.  Another 14 year old boy that lives alone with his mother at a homestead, but more often than not has been alone himself because his mom leaves for months at a time to try and earn income to survive.  She has now lost her job, recently lost another child, had to give another child up because she didn’t have the means to provide for him.  The metal roof on their house has rusted out and every time it rains they have to spend the night standing up in order to stay dry.

blog-day-2-10These are only a couple of the stories that seemed to find us today and confront us with the reality of injustice in this land.  These stories are not fair.  It is not fair that we get to have what we have mostly because of our postal codes at birth.  As we shared our hearts together as a team this evening, one team member simply said “my emotions are not describable”.  Our hearts are full but also heavy & broken.

This doesn’t reflect the state of Bhobokazi.  It is a care point that is thriving.  Leadership has risen up through the care point and it is a place of hope & refuge for children.  However, this does reflect the reality that each of our children live within.

Even in the midst of this collision of emotions, the things that we heard ring out at our team sharing are phrases like:

“I am so inspired by their faith in midst of this all.”
“These people expose how shallow my faith is.  All we hear is how grateful they are to God for how he has provided for them.”
“They have more joy & gratitude than I ever have.”

In many ways today the children & families of Swaziland have given us a gift that we can never repay.  They have exposed our own poverty.  They have taught us what true “Grit” looks like.  They have shown us such a genuine expression of faith and gratitude.  These things have confronted us tonight.

We are so grateful for today.  For its joys and for its heartbreak.  Both are incredible gifts of the relationships we have here in Swaziland.

Thanks for journeying with us through our day. – Jon


Team member post & photos…..

As some of you know this is my sixth Swazitrip.  Each trip has been a learning and growing experience. Sometimes learning is fun but sometimes it just plain hurts. Learning takes us down rough roads and drags us over rocks on the road. When I think of “Gritty” I think of sand in my teeth.

Since arriving in Swaziland I have been on two home visits. The first one was to a homestead I have been to before. Last trip here we started a new house (room) for the family to sleep in. At first we were going to do repairs to existing structures but they were deemed to be past repair.

Fast forward to yesterday. As we sat with the family we asked them the usual questions. How many people live here?  How many kids attend the care point? And then the most important question. How can we pray for you?  The answer stung my heart. The grandmother told us how the family would sleep standing up every night when it rained in hopes that they would not be crushed if the roof and walls collapsed. How should I pray when the answer stood twenty feet behind me minus a roof, door and windows and floor. I desperately cried out to God to give me the words as I began to pray.


“Lord keep this family safe, provide them with food to keep them strong and a way to complete the new house”.(Abbreviated version).

We left them with food and they thanked us many times for coming and spending time with them and praying for them.

Today I went on another visit and was equally not fully prepared for what we would find. When we arrived we found a solid house, a small field of corn and several cows grazing out front. I know we are sent to the most needy in the community but this did not seem to fit. As soon as we walked up to the door kids started to file out. They were so pleased to see us. The last out was the grandmother. Her face beamed as she greeted each one of our team. We all sat on the front porch and started to get to know each other. Our translator did a great job of leading the conversation. It did not take long for grandmother to tire of the delay and she began to speak perfect English. My questions were answered as she told us that she had quit her job as a teacher in order to look after her children and grand children (10 in total). Her husband had passed on years ago and she was left to care for the family without an income. She told us that if it was not for the care point that her kids would have to go to bed hungry. If the older ones were late coming home from school they would miss meals at the care point. Our reason for coming to this family shone clear. As we asked how we could pray for them she mentioned food and especially rain so her crop would grow. She invited us into her home and asked us to bless it and her family. I expected that we would pray and that was not what happened.


Once we were all in the family began to sing. As we sang along tears filled our eyes and the blessing and presence of God filled that little room. After several songs the room was filled with the chorus of many prayers pouring out to God at the same time. This was a first for some of our team but truly a humbling experience. We left them filled with knowledge that God was in this here and He would take care of his children in this place. – Bryan P

14 thoughts on “A collision of emotions.

  1. Hey, Team! I love seeing these photos of you with the Bhobokazi kids! This care point stole my heart. Before Riverwood sponsored Bhobokazi, it got this nickname as the “Forgotten Care Point.” I remember playing with the kids and thinking, “God has not forgotten this care point.” And these pictures show that even more strongly. These children are so deeply loved and look like they are having the time of their lives, far from forgotten! Thank you for pouring into them, for being vulnerable and open to the pain that comes from caring. Thank you for proving again that they are not forgotten! Keep digging deep and giving everything you’ve got; it most certainly makes a difference! – Zach

  2. Really enjoying all of these posts, love seeing the smiling faces of the children and hearing about what daily life is like for the communities there. We are praying God continues to keep your eyes as well as your hearts open when you encounter emotional situations.
    Rachel- loved seeing you smile with the kids. Dan has texted multiple times in “Fam Jam” thread so he is still alive and well. Thinking of you lots. Eve is still super cute, she lasted 3 houses for trick or treating in her bulldog costume.
    J+E aka Jason and Eleasha aka your brother and sister in law

  3. Hey Mom! I just wanted to let you know how beautiful you are! I love how in the pictures i can see how much you care about all the kids and how much you love them. They are lucky to be able to spend some time with my fantastic mom! I wish i could’ve been there with you again! I love you so much!
    I hope all of you are having a great time!
    – Carley

  4. Hey Team! Psalm 146:9 sort of took on a different twist for me this evening: “The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” i realize this isn’t exactly what it means…and yet in a very real sense, YOU are the ‘foreigners’…and in Swaziland, the Lord is watching over you! But i love how this verse marries the two groups…”the foreigners” (who are out of their element, vulnerable and in need of watching over)…and “the fatherless and the widows” who the Lord promises to sustain! Your stories of Day-2-on-the-ground (and your photos) were a wonderful picture of the marrying of two cultures and two groups of very beautiful people! It is such a thrill to watch the blurring of lines that is taking place! Language, race, economic, generational and cultural differences are no match for the love and unity that is made possible in Christ! Again, all we as your church family can do is say “Thank You for serving! Thank you for representing our church family so well! Thank you for allowing yourself to be a vessel of hope and love!…and we have your backs! We’re cheering you on everyday! Keep up the good work!” – t

    PS…and Carolyn, i underestimated you! i knew you were remarkably detailed-oriented, but to pull off colour-coordinated outfits with your translator for ‘story-time’…outstanding! 🙂 Truly missing you like crazy my Love!

  5. What a blessing you are to these beautiful kids, Riverwood team! The pictures are stunning. Thank you so much for sharing the stories as well…..it brings us all closer to each other! Love hearing how God is working in the hearts of the team there and in the kids & caregivers at both care points… very moving . The kids look so healthy, loved and cared for! Cheering you on from Winnipeg!

  6. I appreciated reading the stories of colliding emotions. It is amazing how such a depth of joy and sorrow can coexist. In the same breathe to feel so overwhelming privileged and yet underwhelmed by our own expressions of gratitude. Jon, what a true observation that our friends in Swaziland posses a faith and gratitude that is elusive in our own lives. What an honour that they share it with us so willingly.

    Unfair or not right are insufficient phrases to describe some of the situations you described Bryan. I suspect that 6 visits to Swaziland did nothing to lessen the profound discomfort you felt as you heard of that precious family standing through the night, afraid their shelter would give way to the rain. Thanks for sharing.

    I find friction to be a good metaphor when I struggle with the collision of joy and sorrow and the discomfort it causes. Friction can really hurt. (Think rope burn) But, it is necessary to create movement. (Think trying to drive on smooth ice) Our hands are moved to let go and give. Our hearts are drawn towards God who provides grace and peace when understanding the unfair is impossible.

    Russ and I send much love and prayers. To Allison specifically, but also to the rest of you!

    – Jordan

  7. Agnes. I love the picture of you embracing Gracey. So much love is seen in that picture, and also the other picture of you helping to stir the HUGE cooking pot. Mary the picture of you on the swing holding that precious child is priceless. Team 2016 way to go for opening up wide your hearts, lives, minds, arms and everything else that you did to be out in Swaziland loving on these precious souls. My heart is always torn wide open after reading the blog and seeing the awesome pictures of the day. Yes, i am becoming more and more lost for words, believe it or not. (P.S.so you will know what happened to me if you don’t ever hear from me again on this blog)Just know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers daily. Love, thoughts, lots of loud cheers and many Blessings.

  8. Brenda. i also love the picture of you holding that baby. Me thinks you have done that lots before. You know that country song These boots were made for walking, Well there is now a new version of that song out.It is called these arms are made for hugging and that Brenda is so you, always loving and kind.

  9. Hey Team, thanks for sharing your time with us. We’re stoked for you all, both veterans and rookies. Been waiting to see this care point again and I am so glad you all get to experience what is happening there, the joy, the community and the lovely ladies that make that place tick. What a fantastic place.
    Well, you’re being prayed for and talked about and know that we all our journeying with you as much as these pictures allow us to. Bless you guys.

  10. When I see the pictures of the children so happy and looking so healthy and you guys pouring so much love into them I forgot for a moment how incredibly desperate their life at home could be. I remember watching them leave the care point and crying thinking of their walk, the huts, lack of food and water at their homes…I didn’t want them to go! But this is how life is for them and it’s so hard not to fix everything while you are there. I’m praying for you all as you struggle with this harsh unjust reality. You all look so great…like you belong there and were meant to do this. Shelly you are just beaming!!! Beautiful! It looks like you are right in your element! Keep up the great work! Being there is making a huge impact on those kids and their communities. Great job team!!!

  11. So good to see you’ve all arrived safely and are right into it already. The pictures are so wonderful to see. Bryan, your stories touched my heart. May God bless you and all the team and give you the emotional and physical strength you need to do His work while you are there.

  12. Wow guys! I’m deeply moved reading your posts and hearing all that God is doing thru you all! There’s a huge lump in my throat as I see you all loving these precious ones so very extravagantly! Thank you Jon & Bryan for letting us into some very raw and very real stuff. The pics are beyond beautiful!!! Praying for you everyday with so much love! Rhoda

  13. Your stories have been told at work
    The pictures have been shared at work
    The amazing love of God has been shared at work ~ ” Why would anyone want to go there ?”
    The over riding sense is that we in Winnipeg actually are poor ~ we have much but little faith
    Blessed are the poor for they will be blessed with heavenly riches
    Their lives are so hard ~ cannot imagine and my heart aches for them
    Praying for the team and for the people you are caring for.
    Love you Dave ~ I love the pictures of you and it makes me so very proud of you and blessed to be your Mom

  14. Bryan, your comments were very touching! The pictures are beautiful but also heart-rending. I am praying for you all. Love, Mom

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